Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter I. The Theoretical Mistakes of the Narodnik Economists

II. The Growth of the Industrial Population at the Expense of the Agricultural

In view of the fact that in the epoch preceding commodity economy, manufacturing is combined with the raw materials industry, and the latter is headed by agriculture, the development of commodity economy takes the shape of the separation from agriculture of one branch of industry after another. The population of a country in which commodity economy is poorly developed (or not developed at all) is almost exclusively agricultural. This, however, must not be understood as meaning that the population is engaged solely in agriculture: it only means that the population engaged in agriculture, also process the products of agriculture, and that exchange and the division of labour are almost non-existent. Consequently, the development of commodity economy eo ipso means the divorcement of an ever-growing part of the population from agriculture, i.e., the growth of the industrial population at the expense of the agricultural population. “It is in the nature of capitalist production to continually reduce the agricultural population as compared with the non-agricultural, because in industry (in the strict sense) the increase of constant capital at the expense of variable capital goes hand in hand with an absolute increase in variable capital despite its relative decrease; on the other hand, in agriculture the variable capital required for the exploitation of a certain plot of land decreases absolutely; it can thus only increase to the extent that new land is taken into cultivation, but this again requires as a prerequisite a still greater growth of the non-agricultural population” (Das Kapital, III, 2, 177. Russ. trans., p. 526).[2] Thus one cannot conceive of capitalism without an increase in the commercial and industrial population at the expense of the agricultural population, and everybody knows that this phenomenon is revealed in the most clear-cut fashion in all capitalist countries. It need hardly be proved that the significance of this circumstance as regards the problem of the home market is enormous, for it is bound up inseparably both with the evolution of industry and with the evolution of agriculture; the formation of industrial centres, their numerical growth, and the attraction of the population by them cannot but exert a most profound influence on the whole rural system, and cannot but give rise to a growth of commercial and capitalist agriculture. All the more noteworthy is the fact that the exponents of Narodnik economics completely ignore this law both in their purely theoretical arguments and in their arguments about capitalism in Russia (we shall deal at length with the specific manifestations of this law in Russia later on, in Chapter VIII). The theories of Messrs. V. V. and N.–on regarding the home market for capitalism overlook a mere trifle—the diversion of the population from agriculture to industry, and the influence exerted by this fact on agriculture.[1]


[1] We have pointed to the identical attitude of the West-European romanticists and Russian Narodniks to the problem of the growth of industrial population in our article “A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism. Sismondi and Our Native Sismondists.”—Lenin

[2] Karl Marx, Capital, Moscow, 1959, Vol. III, p. 622.

Throughout this book, references to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital are to the following German editions: Vol. 1–2nd edition, 1872; Vol. 2–1885 edition; and Vol. 3–1894 edition. References to the “Russian translation” of Capital are to the one by N. F. Danielson (1896).

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